Are you teaching your child to play the “grade game”? If you are…you’re not alone. Everyone in the educational institutions from the principal, to the teachers, to the students themselves have been doing the same thing…teaching your child to play the “grade game”. While grades are important as a rule, they should not be the main reason a student attends school or seeks to know something. The idea that the grade will get you where you want to go in life is flawed.  

Many parents continually harp on the idea that the student must get good grades so that he can go to a good college or university…and that graduating from a good university will guarantee him a good job. This focus on grades during the school experience of course will ultimately make for a good life. Sounds like a solid way to view education doesn’t it? And statistics relating to grades have seemed to generally bear this out prior to the last decade or so.

It seems, however, that we may have over-sold this idea to the detriment of the current and coming generations of children. Grades are focused on what you know of what you have been taught, how well you test or how well you have been prepared for the test, and how well you game the system. We even have a program coming from the Federal Department of Education called Common Core to “help” students “game the system” even more. (Common Core is a topic for another time.) Suffice it to say, it is another form of the “grade game” handed to you and your child so as to affect more control of your educational lives.

The real goal of educating ourselves should not be to obtain a grade by the least amount of effort possible. It should not be to obtain a grade at all. The real goal of our education should be the acquisition of the knowledge we can use to earn ourselves a future that is to our liking and of service to mankind. We need to understand that some knowledge is preparatory to understanding other knowledge. Students need to seek knowledge with the idea of using it for purposes known or yet to be discovered. It is the knowledge that is important…not the grade.

You must also add to the knowledge a work ethic that will use well the knowledge you have gained. In his New York Times article of May 28th 2013, Thomas L. Friedman put it this way; “Underneath the huge drop in demand that drove unemployment up to 9 percent during the recession, there’s been an important shift in the education-to-work model in America. Anyone who’s been looking for a job knows what I mean.

It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares “is what you can do with what you know.” And since jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job — and, therefore, be hired. So, more employers are designing their own tests to measure applicants’ skills. And they increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale. They just want to know one thing: Can you add value?”  

Knowledge is key. Not grade. Focus and emphasis need to be on the gaining of knowledge and a work ethic to use it productively. As a friend of mine, Col. Eldon Bodily pointed out to me in an email relating to this topic, “it is related to the question of a coal mine owner in PA when interviewing local job applicants. “If you want to work come and see me, if you want a job go elsewhere.”

By Nicholas Pond

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